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FINDINGS: Australia can settle more refugees, though its punitive asylum approach is harming thousands of people, damaging Australia’s international reputation and wasting billions that could be better spent looking after refugees when they flee.

The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) has today released its first ever State of the Nation: refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia report, providing a critical review of Australia’s refugee and asylum policies.

The research, informed by the views of hundreds of people from refugee backgrounds, people seeking asylum and those working to support these people and communities, has found Australia excels in resettling refugees but is trailing the world in its approach to those seeking asylum.

Paul Power, CEO of RCOA, said that the report serves as a call to action for the Australian Government. ‘This report praises Australia’s refugee resettlement but calls for an end to the race to the bottom which has characterised Australia’s asylum policy for so many years.

“The world faces an unprecedented challenge in sustainably managing 65 million displaced people. Australia needs to move beyond a fixation on ‘stopping the boats’ and instead engage in the global efforts that ensure people can flee to safety and live with dignity where they arrive, while working toward building a safe environment to where they can return”.

“This evidence-based research provides the voices and perspectives of those directly affected, which politicians and policy makers cannot afford to ignore, yet are too often overlooked. If Australia wants to re-establish its reputation as a global human rights leader, it must urgently overhaul the punitive and inefficient asylum system currently in place.

“The State of the Nation makes a number of practical and principled proposals for humane policy alternatives.  It paints a damning picture of the human cost of punitive asylum policies such as offshore detention, temporary protection, ‘fast track’ processing and the harsh treatment that pushes so many into destitution.  It also makes a number of key recommendations to facilitate successful settlement and integration, including better access to higher education, employment, disability support, family reunion and the end of citizenship delays.

“People flee because they cannot stay where they are.  They are seeking safety, security and dignity and providing this is quite simply the right thing to do.”

Media enquiries: Laura Stacey / 0488 035 535.